The Monument Valley Gap

There's a great quote by Ira Glass, captured nicely in this video. The quote is about learning to writing stories, but I'm going to apply it to creating games. It talks about the gap between your skill to produce something and your taste to recognise something truely special. Sometimes the gap is so painful to see that you want to quit, but all great creative people making interesting stuff have stuck with it through the gap till their skills caught up.

Monument Valley for iOS recently came out and I was reminded of the gap between my taste in games and my current ability.

Monument ValleyIf you haven't done so, download and play the game. It's beautiful, fun to play and it's inspired me to try and up my game and bridge the gap between my skills and my taste.

The graphics in some ways are very simple, but the attention to detail is very high. The textures and shading looks flat, but are full of subtle gradients.

You can't see it in this screenshot, but there's lots of (but not too much) subtle movement. The flag in this screenshot moves in the wind, the heads of the crows bob as they walk. They don't need to move, but it all adds to the feeling.

There are a lot of clever perspective tricks inspired heavilly by MC Escher. This is the game he would have made, if he wasn't so into etching. This could have become gimicky, but it's one of the main mechanics that drives the mystery behind the puzzles and the puzzles are very well designed and thought through.

I'm particularly jealous of the touch controls. This is something I've found really hard to get right. They're really responsive and the momentum you give objects feels real.

Finally the menu screens and transitions between levels employ the same baeutiful graphics and provide a chance to up the level of animation. Before the game has even started, you feel yourself falling in love with it. Monument Valley had the sort of launch day we all dream of, but it deserved it. It's obvious how much work went into this. I just hope there was a point in the past when UsTwo weren't this good and like me were just dreaming of making something this good and working hard at getting better. If so, perhaps there's hope for all of us.

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